If you’re not already excited for the football season to start, then I don’t know how to help you. Fall is here, and that means it’s time to do another 2022 NFL Mock Draft before things change during the season.
As a college football writer for Pro Football Network, I’ll put a college spin on the analysis to give a different viewpoint. So much can change from now until the NFL Draft, so some of these picks might seem ridiculous. That’s draft season for you, though.
2022 NFL Mock Draft | 1-16
It’s always weird seeing these names listed next to new teams, but it’s a sign of new and exciting beginnings for players who deserve it.
1. Houston Texans: Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
Deshaun Watson’s days in Houston are numbered regardless of what happens off the field. There’s not a better time to move on, and it all starts with a brand new quarterback in Sam Howell.
The Tar Heels quarterback can sling it with the best of them, and a North Carolina run at the College Football Playoff means he’s sending his stock to the moon. Howell’s already thrown for over 7,200 yards with 68 touchdowns in his two years as the starter. A continuation of that production could land him as the top pick in next year’s draft.
2. Detroit Lions: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
One of the best things about a 2022 NFL Mock Draft is that you can make picks that aren’t on anyone’s radar. Everyone’s picking Chris Olave as the top receiver in this year’s class, but it’s his teammate Garrett Wilson who has the upside that teams will love.
Lions fans will fall for his ball skills and athleticism that will get them out of their seats with their jaws on the floor. Also, it’s Detroit, and we’ve seen them fall for a receiver or two (or three) earlier than they should.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
Urban Meyer would love it if Kayvon Thibodeaux happened to fall to them at this spot. The Oregon defensive end continues to be projected as the top pick of the draft, and it’s obvious why when you watch his film.
He dominates every matchup he faces, and the Ducks’ star played a significant role in flipping Oregon into a defensive-led team these last couple of years. He’s a unique player who brings great length and can bully anyone standing in his way.
4. New York Jets: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Even in a 2022 NFL Mock Draft, you have to consider all of your options just like any general manager would. However, sometimes the pick in front of you remains obvious no matter how long you take to look at it. Picking Derek Stingley Jr. is a smart move no matter what team does it.
You could technically view Stingley’s 2020 season as a step back, but he’s still one of the most dominant forces in college football. Throw in the fact that he might see time on the offensive side of the ball, and this pick also brings versatility.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
I refuse to let the Cincinnati Bengals ignore a position of dire need two years in a row. After passing on Penei Sewell, they’ll land a unicorn instead. Evan Neal stands at 6’7″, 370 pounds, and possesses the athleticism of someone half his size.
He does things that will astound fans and analysts, and the hype train is just getting started. The Bengals can’t turn that down. Keeping Joe Burrow upright and on the field is priority No. 1 after this year, and drafting Neal is a good start.
6. Philadelphia Eagles: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
Florida’s secondary continues producing elite defensive backs, and that trend continues this year. Kaiir Elam broke onto the scene last year and figures to take another step in the right direction in 2021.
Fluid hips and good length aided his rise as a corner, and there hasn’t been a matchup he can’t handle. It’s easy to see why the Eagles would trade this pick away, but it’s tough to see them pass on a guy like Elam if he lands in their laps.
7. New York Giants: Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M
Regardless of your opinion on the Giants’ quarterback, they need help staying upright. So drafting Kenyon Green makes so much sense for multiple reasons.
Green’s game screams versatility, thanks to his ability to play multiple positions. Over the past two seasons, he’s started at guard for the Aggies but will slide out to his more natural tackle position for the 2021 season. He also brings a mauling mindset that helps set the tone in the trenches.
Just like Giants fans got excited about drafting Will Hernandez in 2018, fans will love hearing Green’s name called on draft night — maybe even more.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC
What’s an easy way to add depth to your entire defense by adding just one player? You ensure they’re versatile.
Drake Jackson‘s athleticism gives USC defensive coordinator Todd Orlando the flexibility to move him all around the field, and the Falcons’ defensive line will appreciate having that on their team. USC loves to drop him back in coverage as an extra linebacker, but Jackson can also get around the edge like the best of them.
He’s just what the Falcons need in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft. Hopefully, they realize that come draft night.
9. Carolina Panthers: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
Carolina drafts an athletic quarterback who can elevate his team’s play and throws an absolute fastball. Sound familiar?
While Malik Willis won’t ever be Cam Newton, there are similarities to their games. Willis looks like he’s playing the game so effortlessly, and the NFL is just starting to take notice of his skillset.
Last year, Willis threw for 2,250 yards and 20 touchdowns while also rushing for 944 yards and 14 touchdowns in 10 games. He has the potential to move up draft boards with another incredible season, and the Flames’ flamethrower will be a name more people recognize outside Liberty.
10. Minnesota Vikings (from New York Giants): Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
You know Mike Zimmer is a sucker for a good defensive back, and you can’t convince me he wouldn’t pound the table with Kyle Hamilton dangling in front of him. Trading up isn’t what GM Rick Spielman typically does, but Zimmer might lose it if they have a chance to snag Hamilton and pass.
The last Notre Dame safety they drafted turned out to be decent. Harrison Smith’s been a staple in the Vikings’ secondary, and Hamilton has the potential to be even better.
At 6’4″, Hamilton brings size to any defense he joins, and his game gives his defensive coordinator flexibility to move him everywhere on the field. So good luck getting Zimmer to look past that if Hamilton’s still around at this pick.
11. Denver Broncos: Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma
Potentially the first overall pick in this draft, there’s a slight chance that Spencer Rattler falls this far. Many people are already picking freshman Caleb Williams to overthrow Rattler, so his own starting spot might even be up for grabs.
Towards the end of the 2020 season, there weren’t many quarterbacks playing at Rattler’s level. Therefore, it’s easy to see why people pick him as the top player in this year’s draft class. His arm strength allows him to make every throw, and at times, it just takes an effortless flick of the wrist.
Rattler can be a franchise quarterback and would be the next great prospect produced by Lincoln Riley. However, there are some things that concern people simultaneously, so there’s plenty for him to prove in 2021.
12. Las Vegas Raiders: DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M
If DeMarvin Leal falls farther than this, I’ll be shocked. Thanks to his size and powerful hands, he’s already built to play in the NFL, so he shouldn’t have trouble adjusting to his new team.
Leal and the Raiders feel like a perfect marriage, mostly because he brings a great attitude as a run defender in the trenches. I can already picture Jon Gruden obsessing over Leal’s game and doing everything he can to make sure his team drafts him.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M
Kyler Murray returns to lead a Cardinals’ passing attack that will be one of the best in the league, but he needs someone to help him run the football. Isaiah Spiller‘s experience in the SEC gives him the tools to step in and contribute immediately.
Spiller put in work heading into the 2020 season, and the results reflected that. He already brought good power to his runs, but he added speed and quickness to his game last year. That addition made him one of the best running backs in college football and played a significant role in his production.
14. Washington Football Team: Ikem Ekwonu, OG, NC State
Ikem Ekwonu, like his college team, embodies the underdog mentality. An unknown prospect just a year ago, he elevated his stock by bringing a physical and nasty approach to blocking.
Washington needs a new quarterback, but it doesn’t mean much if they don’t have anyone blocking up front (see Cincinnati Bengals for how that goes). Drafting a lineman isn’t the most popular pick, but sometimes it’s the best and necessary choice.
15. New York Giants (from Minnesota): George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
NFL teams love potential, and George Karlaftis has plenty of that. Already an absolute monster as a pass rusher, Karlaftis remains somewhat raw overall.
He dominated his competition in 2019 with 17 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks but didn’t see the field much last year due to an injury. Now, he’s back and ready to remind everyone why he’s one of the best players on the edge in the entire country.
Expect his film to feature plenty of double teams without another reliable threat on the edge and take his production with a grain of salt knowing that information.
16. Los Angeles Chargers: Myjai Sanders, EDGE, Cincinnati
The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman named Myjai Sanders to his “freaks” list for the 2021 season, and his return gives the Bearcats a force on the edge. Cincinnati already boasts one of the best defenses in college football, and Sanders’ return elevates them even higher.
A defensive line featuring Joey Bosa and Myjai Sanders? Yeah, that’s a problem. Therefore, I’m giving the Chargers another threat on the edge in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, and I have no regrets.